Pushing the Limits: The Story of Teijin’s Open Innovation & Behind the Scene

The Teijin Group was established in 1918 as Japan’s first rayon manufacturer and has ceaselessly transformed itself for over 100 years. The Group operates in three different business fields: Materials, Healthcare and IT making it one of the most unique textile and chemical manufacturers globally.

In a time of rapid change, Teijin has been actively engaged in open innovation to create new value. As part of this effort, Teijin partnered with Agorize to launch the Innovation Challenge for Sustainability and Well-Being, a global open innovation program.

We had the opportunity to interview Mr. Takayuki Goto from the New Business Marketing & Promotion Department, who is in charge of this program, to share the story behind this program, the open innovation initiatives, and how Teijin’s vision will support the future of society.

Teijin Open Innovation Program Team

Teijin’s Open Innovation and the Story Behind this Initiative

Q: Teijin has been one of the first few companies in the chemical/pharmaceutical industry to launch open innovation in Japan. Could you tell us about the story behind the launch?

Teijin was initially established as a textile manufacturer and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018. Over its century of history, the company has grown and expanded its corporate portfolio from textiles to diverse business fields. Today, we are developing our business in different areas such as “Materials”, “Healthcare”, and “IT”, which makes us a little unique from other companies. However, in today’s world, where business and customer needs are rapidly changing, we find it difficult to continue creating new value and meet customer needs. Rather than doing everything on our own, we hope to respond to the needs of customers and society through collaboration with external parties. That’s why we started this Open Innovation program. I believe that the global start-up companies will not only have cutting-edge technologies but also specialized strengths to solve social issues. We are seeking to work with these companies to create new synergy and values.

Q: What is your expertise and role in Teijin?

I joined Teijin Limited in 2011 with eight years of experience in pharmaceutical sales and 18 months of experience in the advanced development of materials in the automotive industry before taking this current position. I am in charge of the secretariat of this program.

I am currently in the New Business Marketing & Promotion Department related to the three business fields I mentioned earlier. My role is to create seeds for new business through open innovation activities. We will provide support for the implementation of ideas selected in the final round. We are also implementing other programs to collect new ideas from our employees.

As this global open innovation program is a new experience, we had support from Agorize as part of the operation. We are looking forward to the good results and solutions at the final event next year.

About the Program

Q: What are the key challenges that Teijin wishes to address through this program?

Although we have invested in and collaborated with startup companies individually, this is the first time we are calling companies worldwide and finding seeds for our new business. This is challenging for us, but I am excited and can’t wait to interact with startups worldwide through this program.

We are a company that operates in various countries outside of Japan. We believe this program will help us improve the internal communication between Japan and other regions and work together as a team. In addition, we are planning to have our employees overseas actively participate in this program.

Q: What is the uniqueness of this year’s program for startups to consider applying?

We have no restrictions on where the participants come from, but we look for companies with legal entities. Technologies and business plans that the participants propose do not need to have relations with our business. We will focus on how your solutions are aligned with the various social issues and creative proposals. If you have any new ideas, we are open to discussion. 

Q: Is there a possibility that in the future, Teijin and the participated companies will work together on these social issues in a new market and country?

I think this is possible. There is no restriction on the region or country they live in, but it depends on whether the issue can or cannot be tackled realistically. If a social issue needs to be addressed, we believe we should work on it.

Our company is committed to “Diversity and Inclusion” we believe that working with diverse talents that bring in new ideas will benefit our business.

The program has started, and some companies have already applied. We are very excited to see several applications coming not only from Europe and the United States but also from Asia and Africa.

Q: What advice/tips do you have for startups to improve their chance of getting their applications selected and advancing to the next round, and perhaps win the challenge?

As I said that we should adopt a proactive mindset but focus on three themes that we set for this challenge: ”Protecting the Environment,” “Safety, Security and Disaster Mitigation,” and “Improving Healthcare for All.”

These themes are also part of Teijin Group’s medium-term management plan and are linked to Teijin’s value. To promote co-creation, we hope to receive business proposals that share our vision, with a clear understanding of the social issues around these themes, and be able to provide solutions to genuinely needy customers.

On top of this, the measurements needed to be taken to protect the environment, especially managing the issues of a Carbon-Neutral Circular Economy, is also one of the topics I would like to see in the proposal.

Teijin’s Future Open Innovation

Q: What sort of results does Teijin expect from this program? In other words, how does Teijin measure the success of this program?

Teijin Group’s long-term vision is to become a company that supports the society of the future. Using this as a starting point to see social issues as business opportunities and capture those opportunities by anticipating future changes.

As a result, we are able to establish new core business and transform our business portfolio. I think it is necessary for our employees to look at the latest technologies and solutions provided by the global start-ups and adopt these new technologies to stay competitive. We are taking the first step of establishing a solid collaboration aimed at realizing the company’s long-term vision.

As the world becomes more globalized, I would also encourage our employees to actively participate in this program so that we can see things from the same perspective.

Q: Can you share with us other initiatives that are part of Teijin’s innovation plan right now and in the near future?

As part of our internal open innovation program, we held multiple events where Teijin employees could join and propose their business ideas. These ideas will be gathered and presented to the executive level in the final stage. We believe that through this global program and internal events, we can find the seeds of new business and make them bloom.

Furthermore, we would like to create an ecosystem where every employee in Teijin Group can stimulate change and bring ideas to the company through internal and external initiatives. Especially, how do we water these seeds of proposals and ideas that have been gathered, encourage them to sprout, and turn them into a big tree? This will be a challenge for us in the future, but we will continue to pursue these initiatives and be more proactive in these activities.

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